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Not Everybody Thinks Tourism is a Good Thing

02.25.06 08:38 PM – Andy McDonald
One thing you’ve gotta love about Madison County: There’s certainly a diversity of opinions.

In recent years the conventional wisdom has been that the tourism industry has the potential to boost the local economy and guide the region to prosperity.

Richmond and Madison County have apparently seen the wisdom of this strategy, as our neighbors to the north are considering plans for making the Duncannon Lane interchange a new gateway to the county, which would highlight the area’s Civil War history. It’s an interesting idea considering the fact that tourism is in the top five industries in the state.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason I was surprised to learn that not all of Berea’s city leaders subscribe to the theory that tourism is good. Some, in fact, apparently believe that inviting travelers to explore our fair city simply isn’t worth the trouble, given the subsequent traffic problems that may ensue if people actually liked it here.

So how would we embrace this new and novel anti-tourism paradigm? It really wouldn’t be that difficult.

Signage: The city of Berea is poised to spend $40,000 on the award-winning story board series produced with the help of local metal sculptor Bob Montgomery. As many of you may know, the signs consist of a metal hand holding a story board about the community. But if we’re really going to take this anti-tourism stand seriously, do we really want to spend $40,000 so that a bunch of perfect strangers can come poking around in our business? Instead, why not save the 40K, take a hacksaw to the now famous fiberglass hand sculptures and cut off their index, ring and pinky fingers. That would send prospective tourists an unmistakable message they would never forget.

Hospitality: The center in Old Town has a sickeningly hospitable name, and the misguided staff smiles at people and they try to be helpful. Instead, why not reinvent that facility: The Berea Unwelcome Center. Inside apathetic employees would glare menacingly at visitors the moment they stepped into the building. All the while, the Ray Charles’ song “Hit the Road, Jack” would be playing on the loudspeaker.

Finally, I think we need to enlist the efforts of our peace officers to enforce the strict no-new-tourists policy. Patrol cars could be parked near the I-75 off ramps, with officers waiting to pounce on the undesirables who might entertain some nefarious notion to spend their money in our city. A typical traffic stop would go something like this:

Officer: “Sir, may I see your driver’s license?”

Motorist: “Is something wrong, officer?”

Officer: “I just noticed you have out-of-state license plates. You’re not planning to stop in town, are you?”

Motorist: “Actually, yes….I thought…”

Officer: “You see that sign over there?”

Motorist: “The faded one that says ‘Welcome to the Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky?’

Officer: “No. That’s the old sign. I mean the new one above it.”

Motorist: “The spray-painted graffiti that says ‘Get Bent?’”

Officer: “That’s right. Because we don’t take kindly to strangers who come to spend their money here in our town, see? So don’t get any ideas about gassing up, buying a Slush Puppy, or picking up a throw blanket at Churchill Weavers. You get my meaning, boy?

Motorist: “Okay! Okay!”

Officer: “Now get on out of here and take your business to Richmond or Lexington!”

Yeah, that’ll make life in town so much easier. Luckily for us, most city leaders don’t embrace such a philosophy.
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